Trademark Infringement in Film: Can You Copyright a Film Title?

You don’t want Hollywood to throw the book at you for trademark infringement. Image taken from TV Series Silk.

Now personally I can act, direct, sometimes even write but ask me to come up with a film title and watch me morph into a goldfish, eyes blank staring into space mouthing nothingness. But fair enough right? we all have our strengths and weakness.

The mistake I made with my film was thusly, I took the title “Roadhouse” from The Doors song “Roadhouse Blues” at the time of the first draft I had no idea that there was already an 80’s Patrick Swayze film of the same title although I did find this out later…naïve as I was I left the title as ‘Roadhouse’, a working title and went on to film a promo for it, made numerous drafts of the script, start up a Facebook and Twitter account and even designed a concept poster…Big mistake!

This was the song by The Doors that inspired the name for my film ‘Roadhouse’

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One day I would discover an article in the Hollywood Reporter claiming they were remaking the 80’s Road House and even though my film bears no resemblance that’s a big damper on plans.

Fact is you cannot copyright a name, but you can have it down as a registered trademark and that means any title with the same name and/or using similar branding can potentially be construed as infringement. Of course I would suggest filmmakers seek legal advice for this however costly it would be I’m sure it would be a lot cheaper than any major lawsuit Hollywood brings your way.

I strongly suggest you check the IMDB database to see if there are films with similar names to yours. In the US you can check which trademarks are registered via http://www.uspto.gov/

However its not all gloom and doom. Here are some interesting links to articles that contain more detailed info on the matter. Also my favourite being the link to famous films sharing the same title…could Roadhouse be next I wonder!

Trademark Infringement from Ohio Bar

Famous Hollywood Films That Share The Same Title

Film Lawsuits

Regular readers will know that I’m in the process of getting a feature made…a long brutal, grueling process…Oh the joy! In any case I’ve been working on building an audience for this feature for a few months…

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